WASHINGTON, Oct. 20 (UPI) -- The United States' special representative for North Korea policy said there are no signs Pyongyang is preparing a nuclear test, the same day Seoul's spy agency made the opposite claim.
"We are monitoring closely, as I said," Kim said, after a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, "Persistent North Korea Denuclearization and Human Rights Challenge," was held on Tuesday.
"North Korea should not be conducting any nuclear test for in fact they should not be conducting any nuclear activity. Multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions prohibit them from carrying out nuclear activities. I certainly hope that they are not planning to conduct another nuclear test," he said.
North Korea has engaged in three underground nuclear tests – in 2006, 2009 and 2013, and has launched rockets since 1998, with the most recent launch occurring in late 2012. Analysts at the Institute for Science and International Security recently issued a report stating Pyongyang now has enough nuclear material to build 22 nuclear weapons, and more specifically, between 66 and 88 pounds of separated plutonium in late 2014.
Kim also said on Tuesday Japan would not be allowed to deploy its Self-Defense Forces without South Korea's consent.
"If you look at the revised guidelines between the U.S. and Japan, it very clearly states the importance of respecting the sovereignty of a third country," Kim said. "It's obvious that Japan would not operate on the peninsula without South Korea's consent."
Earlier in Seoul, Japanese Defense minister Gen Nakatani did not commit to a definite answer regarding Seoul's consent vis-à-vis a Japanese incursion into North Korea, Yonhap reported.
North Korea's human rights issues also were discussed at the congressional hearing on Tuesday, and U.S. Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues Robert King said media flows into North Korea are helping to convey information about the outside world to North Koreans, South Korean newspaper Segye Ilbo reported.
According to King, 29 percent of North Koreans listen to foreign radio broadcasts, and broadcasts from Voice of America and Radio Free Asia have played an extremely important role in breaking down information barriers.